Don't consider this list of prediction of team standings to be a formal preview on each team. Rather, this can be more or less a starting point to get some dialogue going. And though we certainly will have more in depth stuff on the 12 teams in the coming weeks, here are my takes on who their franchise stars are if I had to pick one person, predictions on the regular season standings along with my opinion on what team's best move and biggest loss were, and who stands to be on the hot seat for the season. I guess I must be talking about hypotheticals again..... (facepalm)
Eastern Conference Standings Predictions
1. Indiana Fever
Franchise Star if I had to say one person: Tamika Catchings
Why they're number 1: The core of Tamika Catchings and the Commendable Expendables are back. And Katie Douglas is "feeling good." They're also the Defending Champs if I recall.
Best Acquisition/Signing: Re-signing Tamika Catchings, Shavonte Zellous, and Briann January.
Biggest Loss: I can't really think of any. But Tammy Sutton-Brown appears to have retired.
Who is on the hot seat: I'll say Erlana Larkins. She went on a very great playoff run but only averaged 4.1 points and 4.4 boards for the regular season.
2. Chicago Sky
Franchise Star if I had to say one person: Elena Delle Donne
Why #2: At some point after collecting a large number of lottery picks after multiple seasons of missing the playoffs, you'd think they're ready to finally make a big run a la Minnesota after getting a swing forward like Elena Delle Donne.
Best Acquisition/Signing: Getting Elena Delle Donne. Duh!
Biggest Loss: Hmm.. Maybe losing Le'Coe Willingham to Atlanta.
Who is on the hot seat: Head Coach and General Manager Pokey Chatman. This team, even without Elena Delle Donne should have been in the playoffs. If the Sky starts out really badly, she'll have explaining to do, though I don't see her losing her job this season at least.
3. Connecticut Sun
Franchise Star if I had to say one person: Tina Charles
Why #3: A strong trio of young players like MVP Tina Charles, Sixth Woman of the Year Renee Montgomery, and veteran guard Kara Lawson should keep this team in the playoff mix at a bare minimum, in my opinion.
Best Acquisition/Signing: Re-signing Renee Montgomery.
Biggest Loss: Asjha Jones will be out for the year. In addition, Danielle McCray was injured will also be sitting out the year. Losing Jones alone is why I dropped this team down two spots from number one if I did this same guess back in February.
Who is on the hot seat: Kinda tough, but I'd say new Head Coach Anne Donovan. Sure, this is her first year, and even with injuries to this year's squad, she still has gotta keep this team playing at a high level so fans won't be screaming that terminating Mike Thibault was a mistake. I've certainly been there two years ago.
4. Atlanta Dream
Franchise Star if I had to say one person: Angel McCoughtry
Why ATL gets by: With one of the league's best swingmen in Angel McCoughtry leading the way along with a strong front court featuring Erika de Souza and Sancho Lyttle, this team should be good enough to make its fifth straight playoff appearance on paper.
Best Acquisition/Signing: Re-signing Angel McCoughtry.
Biggest Loss: Lindsey Harding going to LA.
Who is on the hot seat: Head Coach and General Manager Fred Williams. With the hiring of former Washington Mystics Head Coach Julie Plank as an assistant, the head coach who led the Mystics to their only 20 win season ever, that certainly tells me who is taking the reins if the Dream doesn't start out on the right foot this season. In fact, he's the coach with the hottest seat in my opinion and if the Dream is in fifth or sixth place this year, I'd expect Coach Williams to be terminated and Coach Plank to succeed him.
5. New York Liberty
Franchise Star if I had to say one person: Cappie Pondexter
Why NY just misses the playoffs: While I expect this team to be very competitive, I don't think Bill Laimbeer will just relive 2008 with many of the same players on this 2013 team. They're just too old imo.
Best Acquisition/Signing: Hiring Bill Laimbeer as Head Coach and General Manager.
Biggest Loss: Kia Vaughn being traded to DC.
Who is on the hot seat: I have no idea. But if I had to guess, it's Cappie Pondexter by default given that she will be expected to be the starting point guard this year and have to balance her scoring and natural playmaking tendencies.
6. Washington Mystics
Franchise Star if I had to say one person: Mike Thibault
Why DC is last: There is not much talent depth as compared to other teams though Coach Thibault will get them to play hard. In addition, there will be a major turnover of personnel from the five win 2012 team regardless of what way you put it or even if it isn't to your satisfaction. While I can see this team in fifth place, I just don't see the playoffs for them this year though they have a good chance to be a long term contender with Mike Thibault in the long term. The goal for this team this year is to have the young players show long term promise, rather than try to win now.
So if you're a Mystics fan reading this, sure, the record books may not look good in 2013, but keep faith in the Mystics' new coaching regime since the man on top knows how to develop a good team.
Best Acquisition/Signing: Hiring Mike Thibault as General Manager and Head Coach.
Biggest Loss: There were no losses that were detrimental for the 2013 team, unless you want to count the Draft Lottery result.
Who is on the hot seat: Crystal Langhorne. Even though I called rookie Tayler Hill the most important player for the Mystics' future regardless, it is also true that Langhorne is still the leader of this team for this year at the very least even if Hill does become a bonafide franchise player over the next five years. Last couple years, she didn't get the job done and granted, part of it was because of previous mismanagement, but now with Coach Thibault, the fact that she's still in DC will mean that she's going to be held much more accountable than before. I was tempted to say that owner Ted Leonsis was on the hot seat, but making a monster hire like Mike Thibault definitely cooled his seat for sure.
Western Conference Standings Predictions
1. Minnesota Lynx
Why #1: The Lynx return four of their starting five from last year as well as most of their rotation front court players. With a starting backcourt and wing trio of the aforementioned Augustus, Lindsay Whalen, and Maya Moore all still with at least some of their best basketball ahead of them, this team will be tough to beat.
Best Acquisition/Signing: Drafting Lindsey Moore in the first round. Some thought she could have gone higher. Also, this team needs a backup point guard to Whalen, and Moore will get to play alongside one of the best in that position. I don't see her getting cut. Also, acquiring Janel McCarville is a very close second.
Biggest Loss: The retirement of Taj McWilliams-Franklin.
Who is on the hot seat: Here I'm going to say Cheryl Reeve. Unless this team has a dramatic collapse which is unlikely to say for the very least, she's going to want to get one more championship with this great core before Brittney Griner, Skylar Diggins, and Elena Delle Donne hit their prime.
2. Phoenix Mercury
Why #2: The Mercury's team last year was designed to win a title and would have been in position to do that if it weren't for injuries to multiple players on their roster including Taurasi, Penny Taylor, and Candice Dupree. This year's team should be back to full strength and with new rookie center Brittney Griner, and I also think that sophomore guard Samantha Prahalis could even be a starter too assuming Bonner is playing off the bench again.
Best Acquisition/Signing: Re-signing DeWanna Bonner. I know Griner getting drafted is big news as well, but it was a foregone conclusion that they would draft her since... a long time ago. Bonner however was likely getting interest from many teams and therefore her signing is "better" to me.
Biggest Loss: By default, seeing Nakia Sanford go to Seattle.
Who is on the hot seat: Diana Taurasi. There are many who will claim that she was sitting out games so her team could tank and get Griner. The only way for her to make the critics shut up is just go out and win. And to be honest, this Mercury team will have about as good of a chance to win as anyone.
And no I am not one of those critics by the way.
3. Los Angeles Sparks
Why #3: The Sparks could find themselves in 1st or 2nd to be honest if they're lucky. But with a strong group of players like the aforementioned Parker, Kristi Toliver, Nneka Ogwumike, Alana Beard, and now Lindsey Harding, they are better this year than last in my opinion.
Best Acquisition/Signing: Signing Lindsey Harding (see Atlanta's link for biggest loss)
Biggest Loss: Seeing Delisha Milton-Jones sign with San Antonio.
Who is on the hot seat: Candace Parker. Though she is one of the WNBA's top five most recognizable players, she has still yet to make a Finals. With the West as competitive as it is now, will she get a chance to get to that round?
4. Tulsa Shock
Why Tulsa's in the playoffs: The Shock was a team that I enjoyed watching all year long in 2012. They played harder than their opponents, their ability to steal the ball and get transition opportunities were great, and now they get a player who can help accentuate those strengths. I still think they need more rebounding skills, but there's something about Skylar Diggins that makes me think that Tulsa is going to have postseason basketball this year.
Best Acquisition/Signing: Acquiring Candice Wiggins and drafting Skylar Diggins
Biggest Loss: Dead tie between seeing Ivory Latta go to DC and Temeka Johnson go to Seattle. I know that Liz Cambage won't be returning, but she wasn't here last year and the Shock managed to perform well without her.
Who is on the hot seat: I am going with Skylar Diggins. Her social media friendly personality will be a big boost the Shock needs for national awareness which the franchise will get this year. But while her social media presence and her sex appeal are great, the Shock ultimately drafted her because of basketball. Many of you think that she's not at the same level as Brittney Griner or Elena Delle Donne, and she'd definitely want you to eat crow this fall with her play. It wouldn't surprise me to see her with the best career of the Big Three to be honest but that's me as a fan, not as a "voice of reason."
5. San Antonio Silver Stars
Why the Stars miss the Playoffs: It wouldn't be shocking to see the Stars in and the Shock out, but I think that the loss of Sophia Young will be felt and Becky Hammon is now 36 and can she still play at the same level in her late 30's?
Best Acquisition/Signing: Acquiring Delisha Milton Jones (see LA link for biggest loss)
Biggest Loss: Sophia Young sitting out due to a knee injury.
Who is on the hot seat: I am going with Danielle Adams. After a better than expected rookie year in 2011, her numbers didn't change much in 2012. Given her size I'd like to see her grab some more boards and with Young out for the year, there should be more opportunities to use her size to her advantage in the paint.
6. Seattle Storm
Why the Emerald City is last: When a team loses its top two players, MUCH LESS TWO OF THE BEST PLAYERS IN THE WORLD FOR THE WHOLE YEAR, and doesn't replace them with equivalent level talent, there's going to be a decline. Compared with the rest of the teams in the West, the Storm doesn't have a go-to talent who is an A-list star with its current roster, and teams need such a player to be competitive.
But like the Mystics, the Storm this year should focus on youth development so fans can see a potential successor or two to the Dynamic Duo even after they come back ready to go in 2014.
Best Acquisition/Signing: Drafting Tianna Hawkins.
Who is on the hot seat: Head Coach and General Manager Brian Agler. I'm sure Force 10 Hoops will understand if and when the Storm doesn't make the playoffs this year or even if this team fails to win 10 games in 2013. However, if he doesn't give Shekinna Stricklen and Tianna Hawkins sufficient playing time in meaningful games in order to see them develop, then that should be unacceptable to them.